tv [untitled] January 29, 2012 12:30pm-1:00pm EST
infamous broth el on crocket street. decades of gambling, prostitution and other crime thrived. beaumont, texas, next weekend on c-span2 and 3. history bookshelf featuring popular american history writers of the past decade and airs on american history tv every saturday at noon eastern. this week, joseph ellis talks about his book "american creation, triumph and tragedies at the founding republic." book recounts what they found in forthing the new nation. mr. ellis is interviewed by national review seniored toor richard brookehighser. >> we are very proud to welcome two distinguished speakers this evening who will discuss triumphs and tragedies in the finding of the american republic
and how both contributed to shaping our nation. joseph jay ellis works at mount hol yok college he is the recipient of several prestigious award, including the pulitzer prize. and the national book award for american sfink, the character of thomas jefferson. publishers weekly called his newest book subtle and brilliant. we are also pleased to welcome back richard brookehighser. among his many books are america's first dynasty, alexander hamilton, american, and what would the founder do. he was a curator of of exhibition alexander hamilton.
he is a contributor to the national review and writees a column for the american observer. now before we begin this terrific program this evening i would ask as always that you please turn off your cell phones and now please, join me in welcoming our guest to the new york historical society. thank you. [ applause ] [ inaudible ] >> we're both really federalists, so that's all that really matters. before we begin, i want to embarrass our guest by adding a little more praise. we had been in a founder's revival for the last ten or 12 or perhaps more years. and like the founding itself,
it's been a collective enterprise. many writers involved in making different contributions. but also, like the founding, there's been an indispensable man and i believe that's joe ellis. he was there at the beginning of the founder's revival. he brought the knowledge and the unimpeachable credentials of the academy and he joined them with a lit rate readable style. it's a pureless combination and i'm very pleased to be here and i greatly enjoyed your book, which i finished yesterday. so but just, and just taking off that introduction, you -- >> i'll take it. i'll take it. >> no, but you talk about the numbers of people who made the founding. and you say that, you know, the
most prominent ones that you're going to be discussing are sort of the obvious first string. >> developed on what i call the kass casablanca syndrome. >> the usual suspect. >> the usual suspects. >> so man that has gone through this period but he was a very unusual character and also a man of color and that's james mcgillefrey. >> oh, yeah. >> so tell us all about this guy. he was quite a character. >> yeah, i discovered this guy. like actually, he was more well known in the late 19th century. theodore roosevelt wrote about him at one time and said he was the greatest person ever to come out of alabama. which might not necessarily be the highest compliment. but he was a mixed blood. he was three quarters white and
one quarter greek. and his father was scottish and had his estate confiscated and went back to scotland. his mother was after french and half creek. but because creek society was matril lin yum, he was regarded by the creek nation as full blood creek. he had a classical education in charleston south south carolina. he spoke wrote french, spanish, english and creek. when the americans announced at the end of the revolution that according to 1723, all of the land between the alleghenys and mississippi was now american territory, he said, we never signed that treaty. we weren't invited. he was also a totally
unscrupulous character. he is the tally rand of the south west. and washington and his secretary of war, henry knox, identified him as the one guy who could be able to control the creek nation and the creek nation is sort of like the iroquois of the south. they have a lot of other tribes that depend on them. the cherokee, the choctaw. if we can sign a treaty with them, we can avoid indian removal. this is a big, big deal. one of the great failures of the found sgt inability to reach a just settlement with the native americans. and washington and knox devote most of his first term. this is the thing washington really cares about. nobody has written about this. >> and he had a lot of dealings himself. >> his earlier dealings and during the french and indian
war, wouldn't necessarily clue you in to the fact that he was as -- he changed by this time. washington had. he really wanted to avoid indian removal because he believed that native american populations had a right to the soil and to dispossess them was it violate the principles of the revolution. and knox agreed with him. in fact when you read some of knox's stuff, it is almost like a cultural anthropologist today writing about the need to preserve and what they want to do is create a series and -- the
key political position which in fact still obtains, that's how we got casinos, is that the native americans are sovereign nations. they are just as sovereign as england or france or italy. >> didn't john martishall. >> marshall who is a protege of washington very well and worshipped the ground he walked on, he thinks he is in washington's and cherokee decision in 1833. he calls them quasi nations. but if they are nations then the executive branch of the government is the place to deal with them. and with the support of, you know, senate, then you can pass treaties. those treaties are law, federal government is then obliged to
regard those laws as invaluable. and washington thought it was his personal word too. sew signes a treaty with mcgillafrey to come to work. >> and this is a great show. >> oh oh, a big show. they stay a month, drink every night with washington and with knox. the congress takes a recess to greet them. they say they are treated more -- with more ceremonial splendor than any ambassador than england and france. in some sense, that's sensible. because this treaty is more important. because it is whether we will have war on the borders for the duration. they signed the treaty. mcgillefrey agrees to terms. but he thinks that ultimately that out is going to dissolve.
>> not a foolish opinion. >> no. because he is reading the european experts. who all believe that this republic will not survive. you know. you know, what's lincoln's word, whether this nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. and so he thinks it is okay. he is a realist. >> this is his holding? >> if they are paying me money, he needs to be bribed, and his other chiefs need to be bribed. and he will sign this treaty. but the problem with the treaty from the american side is they cannot enforce it. there are so many settlers coming from georgia and south and north carolina moving across the allegheny's, they can't stop them. knox says it would a required a military force of 50,000 troops. this at a time when the total size of the american army is 2,000. >> right.
>> okay. and washington says what will it take, a chinese wall? in some sense, a just solution to the native american problems is made impossible by democracy. >> because these people are free to -- >> individuals pursuing their happiness. they want land, right? and well, here some numbers. in 1783, at the end of the war, there are 5,000 whites west of the alleghenys. in 1790 -- or excuse me, in 1800 in the second census, there are 500,000. and you can't stop them. you just can't stop them. and so indian removal becomes inevitable. >> and does -- >> but washington doesn't want to. and mcgillafrey, he keeps thinking, i'll beat them. i have 5,000 warriors i can call
at a moment's notice and it is great correspondents where he said we ran into this group of georgiians that want it settle in our country, creek country, and there is like 300 of them. and they negotiated with me and they said, will you let us live in your kingdom? and he said, i juggled with them. i juggled with them. i left them unclear. i told my braves, if they settle, kill every one of them. >> he dies himself very, very soon after. >> he does. he has syphilis, alcoholism, all kinds of problems. >> does the creek nation suffer from that? >> yeah, it pretty much dissolves. when the real removal comes under jackson in 1830 and up to '36, there is not much of the creek nation to remove. it is disintegrated. >> one of the point you made,
which i guess it fascinated me because i just revufd view ed -- reviewed a book about thomas pane. >> not your kind of guy. >> well, the greatest journalist that ever lived? >> well okay. >> that is the greatest lead ever written, and maybe ever will be written. >> the first embedded journalist. >> the first embedded journalist, writing it on a drum head by a campfire and you just have to honor that performance. >> right. >> but you make the point in talking about the year 1776 that pane, he is also, he is very much a part of the picture. common sense is a huge hit. it has an effect. but instead, the rer can
revolution, instead of an evolution goes an an american pace. when you turn on the television and you see the things happening now or read about what happened in the past, evolutionary pace is not the phrase that often comes to mind. >> yeah, revolutionaries are not regarded as conservatives. >> right. >> this is a conservative group of revolutionaries. kind of berkian revolutionarrev. pane doesn't fit in that and that's why you are mentioning him. so if you agree thmany have fou argument unacceptable. but here is the argument. one of the reasons the american
revolution succeeded and created a stable set of republican institutions, the first republican western history over this area of land, was that the pace of the revolution was controlled. i say they are really good at pa pace, really good at space and really good at race. and by pace, i mean that people like adams, and washington too, recognized that there was a radical agenda, attached to the revolution. what do i mean by radical? now we call a liberal agenda. the liberal mandate. women should be given the vote and regarded as equal. property quality -- >> and they did get it in nunew
jersey. >> well but they took advantage. >> for a while. then closed the loophole. >> they were scapegoats. and corruption. but what changed. there was 500 registered voters and cast 2,000 votes or something like that. then the spasm of, oh, dear, we have to fix this. so the poor women were made the scapegoats. >> they did. before mayor daily, there was new jersey. but there was a radical agenda. the american revolution is a revolution. not just a war for colonial independence, though it is that too and the first one ofi its kind in the western world. but it had a radical agenda introduced in '75, '76. 1775, 1776 and mark was the spokesman for that agenda and if you wanted to pursue that, it
literally meant the end of property qualification, women's rights, end of slavery, and i'm not sure it would go so far as civil rights for all people, blacks and whites. i think that was not in the picture. if you try to implement that agenda, the people i'm writing about believed, pretty much to a man, say pane, that it would implode. that the french revolution is an example of what they eventually regarded as what would go wrong. so that we have to delay this. this is the seeping revolution. this is an evolutionary revolution. i mean, abigail writes john march 31, 1776, remember the ladies letter, the famous letter. so it is clear that consciousness of women, of educated women at least, is -- they are aware of the fact that the very argument is being made
by the americans against the british against power apply to the family. they apply to gender issues. it is not -- that's not something that they are oblivious to. it is very clear that a lot of people think that, and adams gets these letters when he is head of war and ordinance. who is this guy heading the continental army. this guy owns over 300 slaves. actually at that time, he owns like a hundred slaves. and this is wrong. you can get illiterate letters probably written by freed slaves, calling attention to the incombatbility between slavery and the values on which the revolution is based. everybody recognizes that. nobody says slavery is okay. >> that's right. there was a later generation. >> that's the later generation. that's the calhoun generation. >> right. >> so the question is, once you know what the revolutionary
agenda is, do you attempt to implement it immediately or do you attempt to implement it gradually? they chose the latter course. i believe that that was the right decision. that the reason we're federalists. and i -- the one issue on which i have -- i'm undecided here is slavery itself. >> okay, let's -- let's talk a little bit about that. when we had our alexander hamilton show, we made much of the new york manu sms mission society. >> which he was a member of. >> which he was a member of and john jay ran. these are the local founders in new york state, who were part of this. about 32 -- >> actually, new york had the most slaves of any state north of the potomac.
>> that's right. they add real problem to deal. it was not like never had that. >> it was easy in vermont. there were two slaves, you know? >> that's right. >> but -- and it took a long time. not until 1827, but if the united states had gotten rid of slavery by 1827, i mean, we would have died and gone to heaven, right? no civil war. >> they passed legislation in new york in like 1803 or 4. i think -- but it was a gradual emancipation. >> yes. >> so that the last slaves would have lived on up until the 20s, '30s, '40s, matter of fact. it's a lot easier if you're in new york and you don't own slaves and the economy is not dependent on slave labor than it is in virginia or south carolina. virginia's 40% african-american. the total economy is dependent on slave labor. south carolina is 60%
african-american and equally dependent on slave labor. actually, the cotton -- or the emerging cotton kingdom in south carolina is huge, huge economic boon. one of the things that i think people don't -- if you want to look for an excuse for the founders on this, and i don't necessarily think we need to, but most of the founders thought that slavery would die a natural death. most of the founders thought that slavery was a dying institution in the west, that it was part of the medieval dark ages, a form of human inequity that the enlightenment was going to end. it was also a form of labor that could not compete successfully with free labor. so they thought if we contain it, like containment doctrine in the cold war, it was the same
thing as kennan says about the communism in the soviet union. if we contain it, the contradictions within it will destroy it. >> well, that might have worked, but they failed. >> right. >> as you point out in your -- >> they didn't foresee the cotton kingdom. >> how does the louisiana purchase fit into this? >> i write about that, yeah. >> and you argue, don't you, that that destroys the containment strategy? >> it does. it does. because once you expand the market for slaves that far out. the louisiana purchase is everything between the mississippi and the rockies. it's the midwest, greatest, largest area of fertile land on the planet. it's one of the great deals -- makes the purchase of this island here look like child's play. what i really argue in the book
is-and if you really love jefferson you're not going to like this book. you don't want to buy this book. you're going to get really upset about that. that the louisiana purchase was probably the last opportunity the founders had to put slavery on the road to ultimate extinction. >> by a containment? >> containment and more than that. containment, first of all, forbid making any new state admitted from the purchase prohibit slavery as a requirement for admission. now they've done that in the northwest ordinance, okay? and jefferson when he was in the confederation congress back in 1781 had proposed making slavery illegal in any new territory admitted anywhere, and that lost by one vote. but by 1803 jefferson's changed his mind or he's changed his
feelings so that they refused to take this action. but in addition -- here's how what it would -- this is all monday morning quarterbacking and at its worst form is a form of presenttism that's unfair to the founders. >> hypothetical history has a vote now? >> it does. you've written a recent book about this. like what could have worked? knowing how important the slavery issue is, knowing that 632,000 people are going die in the civil war and 2.5 generations of african-americans are going to live in slavery for 50 years, what could have bon done, excuse me, to avoid this? and there was an answer. the answer was prohibit slavery and all the incoming territories and use a portion of the revenue
that would be garnished from the sale of those western lands and an event actual revenue of those western lands totaled something between 600 and $700 million. back then that was actually a lot of money. >> that was real money. >> yeah. use that money to compensate the slave owners for freeing those slaves. now the kicker, and this is the thing that's so tough to face, almost everybody that was in favor of ending slavery, to include -- well, you know, later on harriette beatrice stowe, even abraham lincoln up until '63, they all thought that once you ended slavery you had to
send the freed african-americans somewhere else. back to africa, latin america, caribbean. this generation, the founders, were extraordinarily imaginative in so many ways. they could imagine a larger public, they could imagine separation of church and state, they could imagine political parties. they could not imagine a bi-racial society. >> well, the new york man u missions society argues about that. >> really? >> they were not a colonization group. one of the things they did is they set up schools for black children in new york which were like i think in the 1830s or '40s they were folded into the new york public school system. they had many projects. when they started off they weren't abolitionists at all. one thing they did is they helped people who were being seized, you know, on the grounds that you're an escaped slave,
which was a fraudulent enterprise. they just grabbed people and say, oh, yeah, you ran off, come with me, and they would help defend these people in court. but, you know, as they expanded and had more projects, one of them was education. that certainly is suggestive of not just like, you know, casting these people off or telling them you're free, thanks, good-bye, but, okay, here you live. you have children. we're going to educate you. i think there's at least potential -- >> i think there are exceptions. washington is an exception. washington, as you know, freed all the slaves he owned at mount vernon, which were about half the slaves at mount vernon, in his will upon the death of his wife. but he also provided an endowment to support them until they were educated and capable of some sort of independent
profession or life and work, which was against the law in virginia. in virginia any freed slave had to be sent out of the state one year after free for the very reason i'm talking to. nobody's going to mess with george washington, okay? washington's going to do what he wants to do and nobody challenged the terms of his will. i think that there are places where you can see people imagining a generation together. most people want the people to live elsewhere. >> perhaps that's still the case. >> the dominant view is especially every place south of the patomac. the numbers are unacceptable. 40% in virginia, 60% in south carolina.
we will be swamped. racial war will result. >> that's jefferson. >> jefferson, yes. actually adams says something like at that at one point. armies of right. that's right, in the correspondence with jefferson. so one of the major impediments to any gradual emancipation scheme is the conviction on the part of many of the major players that when it happens, it has to be accompanied by expay the triation. the cost of that is astronomical. >> makes it a nonstarter. >> what jefferson says very late in his life, 1823, he says, once you look at those numbers you never never look at them again. >> and which he was doing. >> yes, he was. >> drew out the sums. >> he always did that. jefferson was really great in having -- he'd have his economy, mon at the cello's budgets, all of this stuff. these neat numbers, the budget for the university of